Viz Media, LLC, headquartered in San Francisco, is an anime, manga, and Japanese entertainment company. It was founded in 1986 as Viz LLC. In 2005, Viz LLC and ShoPro Entertainment merged to form the current Viz Media LLC, which is jointly owned by Japanese publishers Shogakukan and Shueisha, and Shogakukan's licensing division Shogakukan Productions (ShoPro Japan).
Seiji Horibuchi, originally from Tokushima Prefecture in Shikoku, moved to California in 1975. After living in the mountains for almost two years, he moved to San Francisco, where he started a business exporting American cultural items to Japan, and became a writer of cultural information. He also became interested in publishing Japanese manga in the United States, though he himself was not a fan of the Japanese comics until a visit to Japan in 1985 exposed him to Katsuhiro Otomo's single-volume title Domu: A Child's Dream. His idea came to fruition after he met Masahiro Ohga, then managing director of Shogakukan, in 1985 and shared his vision. Shogakukan provided Horibuichi with $200,000 in startup capital, which Horibuichi used in 1986 to found Viz Communications.
Viz Communications released its first titles in 1987, which included Legend of Kamui, however sales were mediocre due to the specialist comic market being adverse to venturing into new territory. To counteract this problem, Viz expanded into the general publishing business and began publishing various art related books in 1992. Into these titles, Horibuchi began publishing manga, calling them graphic novels so they would be carried by mainstream bookstores. The plan worked and after several years, leading booksellers began to have dedicated shelves for manga titles. Sales also picked up when Viz Communications acquired the license for the comedy series Ranma ½, which became an instant hit.
The company continued to see success when it expanded into the anime distribution market, began publishing Shonen Jump, an English adaptation of the popular Japanese magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump. It also acquired another huge selling title, InuYasha. In the late 1990s, Viz began making the push to move into the European and South American markets.
Shueisha co-ownership and mergers: 2000 to present
When Shueisha became a joint owner of Viz Media in 2002, both Shogakukan and Shueisha began to release manga exclusively through Viz. Shueisha's deal with Viz may have been prompted by competition with Raijin Comics, a rival manga publisher created in 2002 by editors and artists who had split off from Shueisha, taking their properties with them. Some exceptions to this exclusivity exist, however: Shueisha permitted DC Comics's subsidiary CMX Manga to license Tenjho Tenge and Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne, and permitted Dark Horse Comics to license Gantz, Lady Snowblood, Shadow Lady, and The Monkey King. Shueisha also permitted Tokyopop to license Kodocha, Marmalade Boy and Digimon Next along with Disney Publishing. In 2003, possibly in response to Shogakukan and Shueisha's co-ownership of Viz, Japanese publisher Kodansha formed a co-venture with Del Rey.
In 2004, Viz Communications was merged with ShoPro Entertainment, funding company Shogakukan's American distribution division. Horibuchi became the new company's chairman. In 2005, Horibuchi started a related division, Viz Pictures, for releasing selected live-action films in the US to theaters and DVD.
On December 17, 2008, Viz Media announced that starting on April 1, 2009, Warner Home Video would be handling the distribution of both its new and existing catalog releases. Viz itself is still the licensor and will do all production, while tapping the distribution powerhouse that distributes the works of other major companies such as BBC, National Geographic, and Cartoon Network. Viz President and CEO Hidemi Fukuhara stated that he believes the partnership will help the company grow its anime holdings more effectively.
On February 20, 2009, Viz Media laid off an unknown number of employees in order to help be more streamlined to face the current economic climate. On May 10, 2010, Viz Media again laid off a number of workers, 60 this time, again in order to try and become more streamlined. This time they released a press release claiming that none of their current product lines would be affected.
Viz also has "Manga Ratings" for their products;
U - Unknown; Rating coming soon. Similar to the Rating Pending rating.
A - All Ages; Suitable for all ages. The Pokemon mangas have this rating.
T - Teen; 13 years or older. May contain material some people may find inappropriate. The Bleach manga has this rating.
T+ - Older teens; Contains material suitable for ages 16 or older. The D.Gray-man manga has this rating.
M - Mature readers; Contains material suitable for ages 18 or older. The Vagabond manga has this rating.
Viz Media was awarded the Manga Publisher of the Year Gem Award by Diamond Comic Distributors in 2007. Viz also received an award for Manga Trade Paperback of the Year for its release of the fourteenth volume of the Naruto series.
By 2002 Viz Communications kept some publications in the original right-to-left format, while in other publications it mirrored pages from Japan's right-to-left reading format to fit the Western left-to-right reading style. During that year Dallas Middaugh, the senior marketing manager of Viz, stated that the left-to-right version of Neon Genesis Evangelion outsold the right-to-left version of Neon Genesis Evangelion on a three to one basis; Middaugh concluded that readers wanted "an easy reading experience." Akira Toriyama, creator of Dragon Ball, requested that his work, labeled as Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z in the Viz versions, be published in the original right-to-left format. Vagabond was printed in right-to-left to preserve historical accuracy. Middaugh said that younger readers of Dragon Ball adapted to the right to left format more easily than their parents.
In November 2005, Viz Pictures was officially formed as the company's division for releasing live-action Japanese films as theatrical releases in selected markets. According to Horibuchi, the company will focus on films that focus on the "Japanese 'kawaii (cute) and cool' pop culture." In 2007, the division released seven films to theaters, including Train Man: Densha Otoko and Honey and Clover. DVD releases for all Viz Pictures films are distributed exclusively by its parent, Viz Media.
In August 2009, Viz opened a three-story entertainment complex in San Francisco called New People. The center piece of the complex is a 150-seat movie theater that screens anime and Japanese live action films. The center also has a cafe, a store selling anime and manga related items, and clothing stores offering Japanese clothing items.
- For a list of anime and Japanese films released by Viz, see the Viz Media category. For manga titles released, see the Viz Media manga category.
Animerica is a quarterly anime and manga digest that initially started as a monthly magazine featuring reviews of anime and manga titles, as well as related works. After a preview issue was released in November 1992, the magazine's first issue was released in February 1993 with a March 1992 cover date. The magazine originally featured articles and reviews on manga, anime, and related media, as well as manga preview chapters. In 1998, Animerica Extra was launched as a manga anthology that eventually focused specifically on shōjo titles. It was canceled in 2004.
Viz changed the magazine's format in April 2005, with the new magazine really being two free publications of the same name. One is advertising-oriented and created specially for distribution at anime and manga conventions while the other is more general in scope and distributed through retail stores. Both versions have fewer and briefer articles and a lower page count. The last monthly issue of the original format Animerica had a cover date of June 2005 (Volume 13, No. 6).
Animerica was one of the first professional anime and manga magazines released in the United States, and one of the most popular in the 1990s. In 2004, it had a circulation of 45,000 readers, but low sales and high competition from NewType USA resulted in the essential cancellation of the original magazine and its reformatting as a free digest.
Game On! USA
Script error Game On! USA was a gaming magazine focused on Fighting games and RPGs with a secondary focus on any anime themed games. It was published in May 1996 and ran for 7 monthly issues before being discontinued that same year in November. The magazine had news and reviews and other articles about classic fighting games like Street Fighter, Samurai Shodown and Virtua Fighter. Two video game-based manga series, Super Street Fighter II: Cammy by Masahiko Nakahira, and Samurai Shodown by Kyoichi Nanatsuki and Yuki Miyoshi, were serialized in the magazine. A one shot story based on Battle Arena Toshinden, illustrated by the game's character designer Tsukasa Kotobuki was published in the magazine as well.
Script error Manga Vizion, sometimes misspelled Manga Vision, is a manga anthology introduced by Viz Media in 1995. It is believed to be the first manga anthology published in the United States. The premiere issue was dated March 1995 and featured three series: The Tragedy of P, Samurai Crusader: The Kumomaru Chronicles, and Ogre Slayer. It ran for four years until it was canceled in 1999.
Pulp was a monthly manga anthology introduced by Viz in 1997. The magazine featured more mature titles, marketed at adults rather than teenage readers. Some of titles serialized in the magazine included: Uzumaki, Banana Fish, and Dance Till Tomorrow. The magazine was canceled in 2002.
Script error Shonen Jump is a shōnen manga anthology that debuted in November 2002, with a January 2003 cover date. Based on the popular Japanese anthology Weekly Shōnen Jump, published by Shueisha, Shonen Jump is retooled for English readers and the American audience and is published monthly, instead of weekly. It features serialized chapters from seven manga series, and articles on Japanese language and culture, as well as manga, anime, video games, and figurines. In conjunction with the magazine, Viz launched new imprints for releasing media related to the series presented in the magazine, and other shōnen works. This includes two new manga imprints, an anime DVD imprint, a fiction line for releasing light novels, a label for fan and data books, and a label for the release of art books.
Prior to the magazine's launch, Viz launched an extensive marketing campaign to promote the magazine and help it succeed where other manga anthologies in North America have failed. Shueisha purchased an equity interest in Viz to help fund the venture, and Cartoon Network, Suncoast, and Diamond Distributors became promotional partners in the magazine. The first issue required three printings to meet demand, with over 300,000 copies sold. It was awarded the ICv2 "Comic Product of the Year" award in December 2002, and has continued to enjoy high sales with a monthly circulation of 215,000 in 2008.
Shojo Beat was a shōjo manga magazine Viz launched in June 2005 as a sister magazine for Shonen Jump. It featured serialized chapters from six manga series as well as articles on Japanese culture, manga, anime, fashion and beauty. Viz launched related "Shojo Beat" imprints in its manga, light novel, and anime divisions to coordinate with the magazine's contents.
Targeted at women ages 16–18, the first issue of Shojo Beat launched with a circulation of 20,000 copies. By 2007, average circulation was approximately 38,000 copies. Half of its circulation came from subscriptions rather than store sales. In May 2009, the magazine was discontinued after 49 issues, with the July 2009 issue being the last released. Viz stated the "difficult economic climate" was behind the magazine's cancellation, and that it would continue releasing the magazine's titles, as well as others, using the "Shojo Beat" imprint.
In January 2009, Viz Media announced plans to launch a Japanese science fiction novel line called Haika Soru. The first novels were scheduled to be released in the summer of the same year, with four novels: The Lord of the Sands of Time by Issui Ogawa, ZOO by Otsuichi, All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, and Usuper of the Sun by Hōsuke Nojiri. In addition, the imprint released an expanded edition of Kōshun Takami's Battle Royale.
The following are licensed by Viz Media:
- Bleach: Memories of Nobody
- Bleach: The DiamondDust Rebellion
- Bleach: Fade to Black, I Call Your Name
- Blue Dragon
- Buso Renkin
- Deko Boko Friends
- Death Note
- Fairy Tail
- Hikaru no Go
- Hunter x Hunter
- InuYasha the Movie: Affections Touching Across Time
- InuYasha the Movie: The Castle Beyond the Looking Glass
- InuYasha the Movie: Swords of an Honorable Ruler
- InuYasha the Movie: Fire on the Mystic Island
- Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade
- Marvin The Tap-Dancing Horse
- Mega Man Star Force
- Naruto: Shippuden
- Ranma ½
- Sonic X
- The Prince of Tennis
- Vampire Knight
- Zatch Bell!
- Zoids: Chaotic Century
For a period Viz offered an e-mail service called Viz Mail. In the first two weeks of service it had 1,000 members. The service allowed users to use stationery and letterheads decorated with characters from Viz Media properties.